Dispatch: Agronomist Gives Italy an Earful

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A coveted seat at the ACSH Dispatch table goes to agronomist Giorgio Fidenato for standing up to environmental groups and the Italian government. In April, Fidenato held a press conference and uploaded to YouTube a video showing him planting six genetically modified corn seeds in Italian soil after repeatedly being denied permission to use GM crops.

“We had no choice but to engage in civil disobedience — these seeds are legal in Europe,” Fidenato tells The New York Times, which notes Fidenato says he “drew more inspiration from Ron Paul than Gandhi.” (Who knew Ron Paul was so big in Italy?)

After Fidenato’s provocation, Italian food police performed genetic testing to identify the offending cornstalks. But before authorities could act, more than 100 machete-wielding environmentalist activists trampled the field Aug. 9, leaving behind placards with a skull and bones reading “Danger — Contaminated — G.M.O.”

The corn — Monsanto’s MON810 seeds — is genetically modified to combat the corn borer larvae that burrow tunnels into corn ears, leaving space for dangerous fungi to grow. Now Fidenato faces jail time or at least fines for planting it, the Times reports.

“As ACSH trustee Dr. Henry Miller has written, this is a pattern of vandalism that is taking place primarily throughout Europe against researchers. It’s not just a one-off incident,” says ACSH Jeff Stier. “There are other examples where vandals have interfered with scientific advances. Obviously he’s not doing a scientific study, he’s just trying to use the crop, but it’s part of an overall theme.”